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The Bells of the Angelus – Hymns and Anthems from Ireland
Salve Regina (Gregorian chant) [1:38]
The Bells of the Angelus (Trad. arr. David Mooney) [3:10]
Lord of All Hopefulness (Trad. arr. Mooney) [3:22]
Fáilte Romhat, a Ri na nAingeal (Trad. arr. Mooney) [2:16]
Queen of the May (Trad. arr. Mooney) [3:26]
Gabriel FAURÉ (1845-1924) Pie Jesu [3:14]
Deus Meus (Trad. arr. Mooney) [3:45]
Sean O RIADA Ag Criost an Siol (iada) 3:21
Is Maith an Bhean Muire Mhor (Trad. arr Mooney) 1:54
A Iosa, Glan Mo Chroise (Trad. arr. Mooney) [1:49]
César FRANCK (1822-1890) Panis Angelicus [4:05]
An tAiséiri (Trad. arr. Mooney) [1:31]
Dochas Linn Naomh Pádraig (Trad. arr Mooney) [2:15]
Hail Glorious St Patrick (Trad. Arr. Mooney) [2:13]
Felix MENDELSSOHN (1810-1847) Oh, For the Wings of a Dove [6:44]
William MAHER Soul of My Saviour [2:46]
Bi ‘Iosa im’Chroise (Trad) [3:26]
Hail, Queen of Heaven (Trad) [4:08]
Georg Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759) I Know That My Redeemer Liveth [6:38]
Joseph HAYDN (1732-1809) Missa Brevis in F (Hob XXII:I)
Tantum Ergo (Gregorian Chant) [1:19].
Blánaid Murphy (organ); Denise Kelly (harp), Gerard Gillen, David Connolly (organ)
Palestrina Choir and Orchestra of St Cecilia, St Mary’s Pro-Cathedral, Dublin/Brona Murphy
rec. St Mary’s Pro-Cathedral, Dublin, 2006
PRO-CATHEDRAL DUBLIN 689076384 155 [76:10]

To be sure, to be sure, this CD from The Emerald Isle is for everyone who likes fine voices and excellent presentation.
I admit that I had to listen a few times before understanding just how the producer John Barnes, engineer J.R. Wearn and mastering engineers managed to cope with the massive reverb of the Pro-Cathedral Mary Chapel, Dublin. Simple really, they faced it head-on at a time the 13th century building experienced bits of it falling down. The building was last restored to full strength in Victorian times then needing repair occasionally because it is too close to the River Liffey so slips and slides on peat foundations.
It is called a ‘Pro-Cathedral’ because the original St. Mary’s was disestablished under the English rule of Ireland, thus there is an entirely Catholic cathedral not far away, called St Patrick’s. The overall result is that Dublin boasts two wonderful cathedrals and no one bothers much about religious differences. The city also has numerous churches and chapels with less challenging acoustics than “The Pro”, as Dubliners call it.
The key work on the CD is the Haydn Missa Brevis in F, brought off here by the choristers and gentlemen of the Palestrina Choir to perfection. It’s a young sound from a very young Haydn but it has such authority.
Especially notable is how director Blánaid Murphy holds her tempi to account for the long reverb in the Sanctus of the Haydn and throughout. Here fidelity is the aim and the whole effect is nearly perfect with the engineers in as close as fielders to a master batsman. That said, there are limits to how slowly one can go.
Ms Murphy, the Orchestra of St Cecilia under Brona Fitzgerald and organists Gerard Gillen and David Connolly make a superb team.
The Mendelssohn ‘Dove’ pop item (track 15) is a bit wobbly but the Fauré ‘Pie Jesu’ (track 6) is really lovely. Then we get the rest: some familiar and some not but I can fault nothing in performance. I have lived long enough in Ireland to pick up here the nuances of how critical Hibernian this music-making truly is. Track 2, ‘Bells of the Angelus’ could so easily be sentimental but not here under stern precision.
In track 7 ‘My God Help Me’, sung in a Latin translation to an Irish tune with harp, violin, organ and other instruments, Mooney has a Celtic triumph without a trace of sugar. It is followed immediately with Ag Criost an Siol, which uses the harp again and a small chorus. It is based on a tune from Donegal or Derry, if my memory is correct. Many tunes from the Ulster Plantation period can be traced to Scotland, England and France but the Irish have their own ways of doing things. The items in Irish - translations in the excellent insert - are all successful in arrangements by David Mooney.
Track 11 by Franck is the only blemish on the CD because the engineers put the voice too far forward and the recording cracks but the Handel ‘Redeemer’ (track 19) as the last of the European mainstream before the gorgeous Haydn ‘Missa Brevis’ is totally satisfying. Track 17, Bi ‘Iosa im’ Chroise with a boy alto against harp is my own treasure of this CD because perfection is ephemeral and the singer is probably now a baritone! The tune from Co. Kerry is carried off to perfection and maybe for the last time in the case of this singer with a voice close to breaking when this marvellous CD was recorded in 2006.
High quality audio gear and a good outboard DAC show this music at its best but such a treat of varied repertoire from the land of poets, priests, rain and music in the soul is also a must for the car CD on a long journey.
Plenty for everybody and brilliantly carried off on all fronts.
Stephen Hall


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